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This represents an opportunity to update HEFCE's existing equality scheme, partly in response to the Equality Act 2010. The Act requires public bodies (including not only HEFCE but further and higher education institutions) to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people from different groups. The Act also extends the characteristics protected by law so that there are now nine protected groups: sex, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, marriage and civil partnership, and age.

Public bodies are also required to publish objectives and information explaining how they will meet this duty. For HEFCE, this applies both to our external policies and processes which affect the higher education sector, and to our role as an employer.

The consultation identifies the challenges facing both HEFCE and the sector with regard to equality and diversity, such as concerns over the attainment of black and minority ethnic students and the gender balance at different grades of HEFCE staff. We want to do everything we can to make sure that our policies do not impact adversely on any particular groups of people. One activity we currently undertake is to complete assessments of impact on equality and diversity for each policy. We also collect data about our own staff and about the higher education sector, to see what effects our policies are having, and to highlight areas that need addressing.

Views are sought from the higher education sector, HEFCE staff, and other interested individuals and groups on:

  • HEFCE's aims and objectives for equality and diversity
  • the information we use to inform policy development
  • the way we assess the impact of our policies
  • the way we engage with staff and stakeholders
  • how we increase staff diversity, as well as staff awareness and ownership of our equality and diversity policy.

The final scheme, accompanied by an action plan setting out how we will deliver on our aims and objectives, will be published late in 2011.

For further information contact Emma Creasey (0117 931 7316, e.creasey@hefce.ac.uk) or Alex Lewis (0117 931 7386, a.lewis@hefce.ac.uk ).

View the HEFCE consultation on equality and diversity